Weekly Message from T. J.

Are You Still Watching?

How are you doing?
What’s new?
How have you been?

For the past two months, the habit of asking these questions has started to feel inane. When I ask these kinds of questions, I’m met often with wide eyes and an open gaze, as if the person I’ve asked is jogging their memory for something, anything, to say. Other times people might say “fine” or “I’m doing well” with spoken language, but body language says, “I really wish people would stop asking me that.” or “How do you think I’m doing, buddy?” The other day in a meeting, a group of us actually checked in for one another…because we are so up to date on what’s going on in one another’s lives.

With friends lately, I’ve been skipping some of these kinds of questions and moving right to “What project are you up to?” or “How many times did you pick up stuff in the living room today?” With other friends I ask “What are you reading?” or “What are you streaming (read: bingeing)?” There is a growing sense in some relationships that we’ve moved past polite checking in, that we’re experiencing something so universal and shared that we don’t require much explanation.

And this movement past surface questions makes me wonder about the future. I have one friend who likes to text me, “How’s your spiritual condition?” I can only assume he got bored texting people “What’s up?” or “What are you doing?” And there are times I get those texts in the midst of a battle for someone’s freedom and I respond one way. And there are times I get those texts in the middle of the fifth episode in a row of a series on Netflix. You know, that episode after Netflix asks that shameful question: “Are you still watching?” And you answer “Yes.”

As a Unitarian Universalist community, we tend to bring people together who are inquisitive. We tend not shrink from hard questions in the journeys of our lives or in our faiths. Indeed, some in our community identity the deepest mystery at the center of our lives as the primary animating feature of their faith. The quest to unravel or to pull at a few of the strings of that mystery is what gives many of our lives meaning. And so I wonder if we can all give something a try.

I wonder what it would be like, once in a while, to skip the opening lines. I wonder what it would be like to start with questions about our spiritual condition. I wonder what it would be like to open with questions about what is causing fear or anxiety in one’s life. I wonder what it would be like to begin with questions about what is bringing joy into these times. Because sometimes the work of solving a mystery has nothing to do with getting the right answers. It starts with learning to ask the right questions. So tell me, “How’s your spiritual condition?” or “What are you streaming right now?” Who knows, the answer may be one and the same.

Many blessings of peace and love, my friends.
Rev. T. J.

5 Responses to “Weekly Message from T. J.

    1. Thanks Bill. What I’ve got at hand is a draft paper by a friend about social class and the rise of the poly-religious in the UK and the audiobook of Dune by Frank Herbert

      1. I read Dune while i was a sea going research assistant on vessel in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. As “America” said…the ocean is a desert with its life underground and a perfect disguise above. That book was perfection.

  1. Thanks for addressing the “check-in” overload. What are you streaming right now?

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